Debate #8: Online Education is Detrimental to the Social and Academic Development of Children
(Week #6: Post #2)
This, or That? I’m Still Not Sure…
Okay, team, I know that this probably isn’t what you want to hear about our last debate topic, but this was one that I really feel indifferent about. I wasn’t really pulled to one side or another, and I think that I really fall right down the middle (exactly what teachers want with persuasive writing, right?). With a lot of the debate prompts this semester, the wording itself made me feel very strongly maybe too strongly at times. I wonder if I feel less strongly about this topic because I think that we need to separate pandemic teaching from online teaching, to begin with. Pandemic teaching isn’t a great reflection of online teaching and learning—online learning is a choice—pandemic online learning was an emergency plan to try to keep kiddos learning and engaged. The only other thing that I would change about the prompt would be to specify an age range, as some people were thinking really young children, and others were thinking high school kiddos. It does change perspectives on things quite a bit, or at least I think so anyway.
On the agree side, we heard from Britney, Kayla, and Colton, who provided us with the following resources: The Miserable Truth About Online School (article), Ontario’s ‘Choice’ of Fully Online School Would Gamble on Children for Profit (article), and Online Learning has Become a COVID-19 Reality. But Experts Say Kids Aren’t Thriving Online (article). This group also provided additional resources. Check out their opening debate statement here.
Some of the main points that the group addressed are the following:
- Online schooling exacerbates the digital divide and accessibility issues.
- Public education needs to remain fully accessible for all.
- Some parents/caregivers still need to work, therefore, unable to help with homework, technology, or connectivity-related issues.
- Students can fall through the gaps even more so, as there is less monitoring.
- Limits options to develop socially and academically.
- Impossible to replicate interactions within pairs, groups, etc. at the same level as in person.
- Students are not introduced to as many different learning opportunities such as hands-on or project-based classrooms.
- Students are missing out on key opportunities to learn sportsmanship, vocational skills, and more.
- Students are developing more anxiety and other mental health-related issues from feeling unable to make connections, keeping up to date with assignments and projects, as well as separating the differences between home and school.
- Online learning is affecting social and academic development more than ever.
- In-person schools provide safety and security for students.
- Grade level needs to be taken into consideration—for example, Kindergarten kiddos are unable to fully participate in online learning by themselves, therefore needing constant support.
No Way! Debate
On the disagree side, we heard from Arkin, Kat, and Chris, who presented us with the following resources: Identifying Challenges and Benefits of Online Education for Students with a Psychiatric Disability (article), Transitioning to Online Learning in Higher Education: Influence of Awareness of COVID-19 and Self-Efficacy on Perceived Net Benefits and Intention (article), How Online Learning Can Benefit Students with Disabilities (article), Student’s Perception of Online Learning During COVID Pandemic (article), and The Pandemic Semesters: Examining Public Opinion Regarding Online Learning Amidst COVID-19 (article). Check out their opening debate statement here.
Some of the main points that our group addressed are the following:
- Online learning is the perfect supplement to in-person learning.
- When done correctly, online learning comes with many benefits.
- Online learning is flexible and fits the learning pace of individuals.
- Students learn how to develop time management skills.
- Educators can work one-on-one with students and keep to a schedule.
- Online learning provides accessibility for those in remote areas, with different needs, or those with high levels of anxiety.
- Creates learning opportunities for their future vocational positions.
- Fits the unique needs and abilities of each learning.
- Class sizes are smaller.
- Invites more constructive and timely feedback.
- Online programs are generally more affordable.
- Online learning directly benefits those with differing abilities and health challenges.
- Students have more time to watch review learning as many times as they need to understand the content, without feeling pressure to move along with the rest of the class.
A Few Thoughts & Interpretations
Like I said earlier, this wasn’t a debate that I was super heated about and really felt the need to share too many of my thoughts. I do think that the debate started to focus more on the validity of online learning, rather than whether or not online learning is detrimental to the social and academic development of children. This debate topic is also tricky as many of us are fresh out of pandemic teaching and relate pandemic teaching to online teaching, when in fact they are two very separate concepts. I wonder how this debate would have looked prior to the pandemic teaching experiences, and if people would have felt a lot different.
After reading the prompt several times, homeschooling popped up into my thought process somehow. Knowing several homeschooled people who are now adults, I wondered how homeschooling would be similar to online learning. After putting some serious thought into it, I realized that online schooling kiddos would have more face-to-face virtual interactions than homeschooled kids would have face-to-face interactions outside of their household. Sure, we always crack a joke here or there about the reason why something happened was being our friends were homeschooled, but to be quite honest, they don’t socially stand out whatsoever. Are there circumstances where in fact a homeschooled child may stick out? For sure. But in my experience, a lot of the people I know are very well-rounded people that have learned both hands-on applicable learning as well as more traditional pen, book, and paper learning. In addition, homeschooling is not a new concept and has been around forever. It has also been a concept widely debated, but I wonder if the concept of online learning has overshadowed homeschooling and has become the new debate topic.
I think we also need to stop assuming that face-to-face virtual experiences are not as beneficial as in-person, face-to-face interactions. I think we need to be careful about the virtual and in-person comparisons as they can be similar but different in many ways. Even though it was during pandemic teaching, I saw a ton of my students who were very shy, anxious, and not wanting to share in the classroom absolutely come out of their shells online, and engage in learning on a deeper level than I had ever witnessed in the classroom. Even though this is unrelated to the debate prompt itself, I think we also need to be careful about how we judge or determine what participation looks like as a one-size-fits all approach. Cameras may be turned off, but reasons for that doesn’t always have to fall back on non-participation when in fact we know that there are many reasons why we have to turn our cameras off sometimes.
Furthermore, another thing that kept coming up in conversation was the idea that online learning kiddos missed out on all hands-on learning and extracurricular activities. For one, I think that’s a gross assumption to think that all schools are equipped with hands-on learning and extracurricular activities, especially in remote or rural locations, as well as community schools and more. I think too often we assume that schools are a one-stop-shop for all kiddo’s needs, yet we don’t realize that most of our kiddos take part in extra-curricular activities outside of the school, whether those are organized and paid for or not. Kids meeting neighbours at the park to throw a ball around, play grounders on the playground, or even gathering at the local youth group or church, are all considered extracurricular activities that maybe we’re forgetting about. Maybe many of us are also biased because we’ve had our own schooling and teaching experiences, and maybe think that those experiences are reflective of everyone else’s too.
Another misconception that kept creeping up tonight was the idea that kiddos who learn online spend their entire day online. We know this isn’t true. Kiddos still have books, and other more traditional learning resources when they are learning online. For example, when kiddos in our division are learning online, they are supplied with textbooks that the teacher is using, so that they can work ‘offline’ as well as online. Scheduling synchronous meeting times provides kiddos with time to ask questions, receive support, interact with their peers, and also be paired or grouped with other kiddos in breakout rooms and more. Too often we assume that kiddos are learning 100% on their own, without support. That may have been the case in emergency pandemic learning, but when teachers are trained in online learning, the setup and flow of their courses look different (and so they should).
I am not saying that online learning isn’t detrimental to some kiddos’ social and academic development, but usually, the kiddos who are enrolled in actual online learning are there for a reason. Online learning is not a new concept, and we have seen it for decades now. I know my cousin who was in the WHL and learned online for almost his entire high school education. School wasn’t his time to interact socially and had other outlets to do so. So, I guess I wonder how many of the people who are actually enrolled online, have other outlets to socialize with others outside of the home? Or are we assuming that every one that is attending an online school is completely isolated, lacks support, and usually suffers from anxiety or other mental health-related issues? In no way am I saying that online learning will be successful for all people and age/grade levels, however, when it comes to socialization, I’m not sure that it is that detrimental for most online students. Academics may be a different story though.
Anyways, after another longwinded post, I found myself on the same side that I started with. Ironically, I think that that happened to me for all of the debates pretty much. I guess I am not that surprised though because usually, I can be pretty headstrong when it comes to certain topics, especially in the education world.
Going Out with a Bang!
I sure hope I have that saying correct because it definitely wouldn’t be the first time that I mixed up or meshed a saying or two together, and completely changed the context of it altogether. Anyways, I appreciate all of Y’all that have stopped by this semester. It’s a crazy feeling to be writing my very last post for my Master’s Certificate in Educational Technology and Media. It’s been one heck of a quick ride, and I have learned so much about blogging and the world of educational tech in my short time since January last year. With that, feel free to answer one (or as many as you’d like) of the prompting questions below, leave a general comment, or simply like the page. All interactions are seen, appreciated, and validated. Until we meet again…
- What are your thoughts on homeschooled versus in-person learning? Do you think that the concept of online learning has replaced the old homeschooling debate?
- Do you think that online learning (not emergency or pandemic learning) is detrimental to students’ social development?
- If you could change the prompt, how would you change it and why?
- Can online learning be detrimental to either social or academic development? Or do they go hand in hand?
- Was there anything that you wished either side would have touched on that wasn’t talked about? If so, how do you think it would have changed the direction of the debate?